10th May2015

‘Nymphomaniac: Volumes I & II – The Director’s Cut’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia Labeouf, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe, Uma Thurman, Mia Goth | Written and directed by Lars von Trier


Some people would question why I would watch the theatrical version of Nymphomaniac, never mind the director’s cut, but I tend to like Lars Von Trier’s style.  Yes, he goes for the controversial a little too easy, but get past all of the hype and his movies often have meanings in them that are actually thought-provoking.  Expecting more explicit scenes in this version of Nymphomaniac I got exactly what I expected, but also a scene that was not only stomach turning and shocking but also affected the movie in such a way that it made this cut all the more worth it, even with its length of over five hours.

Nymphomaniac is the story of Joe (Charlotte Gainsboug) a woman discovered wounded in an alley by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård).  Helping her to heal her wounds she proceeds to tell him of her life as a Nymphomaniac, and how the constant need for sexual fulfilment has made her such an evil person in her eyes.

Having watched the original movie I stand by what I said, this isn’t really about the sex itself but it is about the addiction.  We see this by the connection between her father’s alcoholism and his downfall and her relationship with him similarities that highlight this to be the case.  Her addiction is sex, and during hard times in her life it is the only way she can find solace and it is her way to find fulfilment in life, just as an alcoholic finds it in the bottom of the bottle.  With the added explicit sex scenes nothing is really added in quality, if anything this is just Von Trier string to be more controversial as expected.  What you are expecting to see is all in there…if that is what you want to see.

It is arguable that this is the version he wanted us to see, in its full explicit nature.  It is the cut that fits his vision and here we have it.  In my opinion though you don’t need to see more explicitness to add anything to the movie, if anything the added explicitness cheapens the impact slightly.  Then we get to the point where things change and the director’s cut becomes something of a different beast altogether, a scene that is so shocking it changes everything.

The change comes when Jo gets onto the subject of having a second baby and her desire to get rid of it by abortion.  Her treatment by a psychologist which comes when she goes to get medical help to get rid of it turns her against the idea of therapy for her addiction, but also leads her down a route of abortion that hits the audience like a metaphorical sledgehammer.  Lars Von Trier doesn’t hold back in the abortion scene and we are given not only the graphic self-surgery Jo does on herself in full but also the constant added impact from Trier to make the scene more horrific.  The fact we see the results of the abortion, and also X-ray style video to further make it clear what is happening is all too realistic and stomach turning.  The resulting argument between Jo and Seligman over her actions has a very valid point though.  Even it is a scene I would really rather not see again it is a scene that changes the audience’s view on Jo and her actions from that point on, and you start to pity her even more.

So the question with the director’s version of Nymphomaniac really is what version to watch? The simple answer is that this one has to be it, if you really want to watch it.  I find myself questioning just how the BBFC allowed such explicit scenes in the film, especially when they seem so willing to cut other films over “realism” and also the BBFC’s rule on sex.  I would have thought this movie could have gained an R18 certificate, but no it is 18 and uncut…this will remain a mystery that will remain unsolved though.  Maybe Nymphomaniac is too “Art House” for the general public to watch, so censorship can be relaxed, which may be a cynical view but is also a believable reason.  There is nothing in Nymphomaniac that is cartoonish or unbelievable, it feels harsh and real, yet here it is in its uncut form.  I may applaud that in a way, but in also I have to look at their other actions with other films and wonder did they even bother to watch this?

Whatever the reasons for lack of censorship with this more explicit version of Nymphomaniac, it got through and we should be thankful for that.  With an in your face harshness and a more harrowing impact than the original there are scenes in the director’s cut of Nymphomaniac that you won’t want to see.  What they provide you with though is a new view on the actions of Jo, and more understanding of a woman with an addiction and how low it sends her in her life.  In my original review I said the film felt too long, now it is over an hour longer, and definitely of an “Art House” style.  If that is your thing though, this version of Nymphomaniac is the one to watch.

**** 4/5

Nymphomaniac: Volumes I & II – The Director’s Cut is available in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray from 11th May.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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